By Rep. Tom Pearce, 73rd District
On December 11 and 12, I, along with some of my Michigan colleagues as well as colleagues from the states and Canadian provinces surrounding the Great Lakes, attended a meeting in Chicago to discuss concerns regarding the Great Lakes. The discussion was primarily on invasive species but specifically addressed the problem of Asian carp moving into the Great Lakes, where they will endanger indigenous fish and threaten the multi-billion dollar economy of the Great Lakes.
Evidence shows that the Asian carp have made their way north up the Mississippi River and are at serious risk of breaching the electronic barriers currently in place in the channel between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River. During our discussion we heard directly from the lead individual from Illinois who is monitoring the Asian carp crisis. He reported that while Asian carp DNA has been found beyond the electronic barrier, to date there is no evidence that the barrier has been breached by more than one or two carp. It may even be that the DNA found beyond the barrier was transported on the hull of ships. While this is good news, I have two major concerns. My first concern is that there are many tributaries within close proximity to the Chicago channel and during flood season there may be potential for these fish to move out of the channel and into a tributary that would lead to Lake Michigan. My other concern is that if the barriers have to be turned off for repairs, this would offer open access during that period of time for the carp to continue to move north.
In response, as a coalition of legislators we are requesting that the federal government assign a federal agency to take the lead in preventing the Asian carp from moving further north. We are also requesting the third phase of barriers within the Chicago channel be put in place as quickly as possible. Finally we are asking the federal government to look at surrounding tributaries that should have barriers installed to prevent further movement north if the carp move from one tributary to another during flood season.
Please know that I will continue to watch and monitor action taken by the federal government and our states. I believe we must do all that we can to keep the Asian carp out of our Great Lakes.